New York state is on the precipice of enacting one of the more liberal abortion laws in the country, one that would allow certain late-term procedures and erase the practice from the penal code.
The Reproductive Health Act appears to be on the fast track for approval in the Democrat-controlled state Senate, which in recent history has been a pro-life bulwark against the more liberal state Assembly.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to be sign it into law on Jan. 22, the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
“Republicans said, ‘You don’t need a state law codifying Roe v. Wade. No administration would ever roll back Roe v. Wade.’ So help me God, this was the conversation, you remember,” Mr. Cuomo said Monday, flanked by Democratic figures, including former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
New York Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to pass the legislation since the days of Gov. Eliot Spitzer in the late 2000s.
On Wednesday, state Sen. Liz Krueger introduced the legislation as Senate Bill S240, which drew 35 co-sponsors. Supporters say it will fortify New York’s abortion rights by adding a broad “health of the mother” exception to the state’s ban on third-trimester procedures, drop the requirement that abortions be performed by a doctor and remove criminal penalties for the practice from state law.
Critics say it goes further than Roe v. Wade, noting that abortion is protected as a legal procedure under a 1970 state law.
“This would change late-term abortion status so that, after 24 weeks, abortions are available for life and health of the mother, and those following jurisprudence know ‘health’ means just about anything,” Kathleen M. Gallagher, director of Catholic Action Network for the New York State Catholic Conference, told The Washington Times.
Nineteen states allow for a “life and health of the mother” exception to late-term abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute. However, New York’s law also would remove the requirement that physicians perform the procedure and would allow nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other health care professionals to perform abortions. The requirement that a second doctor be present during a late-term abortion also would be removed.
“They [Senate Bill S240 supporters] want to make New York’s law the most permissive in the country, if not the world,” said Ms. Gallagher.
Neither Ms. Krueger nor New York-NARAL Pro Choice America responded to requests for comment.
“By passing the RHA, New York can finally reclaim its title as a national leader on sexual and reproductive health and rights,” Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City, said in a statement issued Monday.
But Michele Sterlace-Accorsi, executive director of Feminists Choosing Life of New York, said many supporters of the bill are confused by its contents.
“When they look at it, it actually re-victimizes victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence, because when you remove a part of the penal code, you remove prosecutorial tools to hold accountable an abuser who causes the violent death of an unwanted child,” Ms. Sterlace-Accorsi told The Times.
The bill’s introduction comes after a dramatic surge in New York state elections in November that saw Democrats take over the state Senate in Albany for the first time since 2010. The bill is expected to be supported by the legislature’s Democrats and opposed by Republicans, suggesting a calcifying of abortion politics along party lines.
“I think that full-throttle support for abortion has become a Democratic litmus test, and I don’t know why that is,” said Ms. Gallagher. “Don’t get it. It boggles my mind.”
In Monday’s event at Barnard College, Mr. Cuomo also called for an amendment to write abortion protections into New York’s state constitution.